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Make up for the party system’s failure

Manny Valdehuesa

A POLITICAL party is democracy’s institutional mechanism for ensuring order in politics, particularly in the competition for elective posts.

It is through a party that an aspiring leader vies consideration during an election—usually during a nominating convention, a caucus, or by vote of party members; that’s how he gets to be in the lineup of candidates.

But the alleged parties of today, whether national or local, are dysfunctional. Failed institutions, they don’t serve as recruiters or screeners of worthy candidates.

They’re organized to promote the fortunes of basically self-appointed “party leaders” without regard to their credentials, track record, or fitness for office. They are a disservice to society.

Old parties like the Nacionalista Party and the Liberal Party are mere shadows of their illustrious past. They’re just vehicles of convenience for ambitious traditional politicians (trapos) in need of a platform to launch their campaigns.

They don’t even have real members anymore, their officers indeterminate, and they consist mostly of moneyed people who invest in elections in hopes of big dividends from winning.

In terms of reform ideas or social advocacy, one can’t distinguish between them, their philosophy, what they represent, what issues they espouse.

It’s a dysfunctional party system, each one revolving around narrow self-interest with little or no attempt to explain or justify how they can enhance the Common Good.

Making up for their deficiency and failure is a challenge to Filipinos as sovereign citizens; otherwise how shall Philippine society avoid drifting aimlessly for lack of worthy leaders?

One approach a community can adopt is through its Barangay Assembly. Just as the Town Hall Meeting in America helps citizens evaluate aspiring candidates, so can a Barangay Assembly.

Everyone in the community is a member of this Assembly, so it is an excellent venue for examining or testing an aspirant’s attitudes, sincerity, competence, advocacy, or platform.

Aspiring candidates can be asked to speak and present their program of government during the Assembly. It will enable the community to understand the issues being carried by candidates and why they do so.

In other words, forget the parties, assess the candidates directly (as a community). Examine the worth or value of their ambition and what they contribute.

Having them do so will serve the same purpose as the pre-election “Primaries” in U.S. politics do—which is to bring the issues directly to the grassroots, to inform them, to let them react, to enable them to influence the position taken by aspiring leaders. It is one way to encourage campaigns and debates to take place right in the community—forcing everyone, candidates and voters alike, to focus on the people’s agenda (issues of primary interest to them.

In turn, individually and as a community, citizens get to check out the candidates up front, eyeball to eyeball, and not through stage-managed extravaganzas choreographed by advertising consultants and masters of illusion.

Unlike stage-managed rallies, a Barangay Assembly (which is all-inclusive) would give the citizenry more intimate knowledge of candidates, by engaging them in real dialogue.

A citizen can speak directly, express his views, ask questions, and crystallize issues more effectively than if one merely listens or reads or watch TV.

Not least, the event will promote the dynamic back-and-forth exchange between and among candidates and citizens that energizes democracy at the grassroots.

(Author of books on governance, Manny Valdehuesa is national chairman/convenor of Gising Barangay Movement Inc. valdehuesa@gmail.com)

 

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